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A Time of Shadow
An Irish Progressive Rock Band? Surely Not! Almost certainly Ireland s only progressive rock band, DEAD HEROES CLUB offer us 21st century prog-rock.
The band, hailing from Derry in the north of Ireland, wear their influences firmly on their sleeve and yet manage to achieve an original and inventive approach to their music. Beyond the prog-rock tag, however, the band describe themselves as belonging to the song for song's sake category of music, and it becomes clear from the first listen that Dead Heroes Club place a lot of emphasis on melody and try to deliver melody with passion and power through all the various moods and shades that their music offers. The words too are a leading component of the band s compositional make up, and in a sense Dead Heroes Club s new album A Time of Shadow could be described as a lyrical album - the song The Centre Cannot Hold , for example, was inspired by Irish poet and mystic W.B. Yeats. The songs are grounded in reality, dealing with issues or themes that reflect the world today rather than being flights of fantasy.
The band members have come together from various corners of the musical past with one thing in common, the love of experimental and progressive music. Composing music under the philosophy of let the music lead the way, Dead Heroes Club have a lot in common with the progressive rock giants of the past, and yet the music feels modern and fresh. The origins of Dead Heroes Club lie in the words of many long dead conversations around the year 2004 between guitarist Gerry McGerigal, vocalist Liam Campbell and drummer Mickey Gallagher all of who were playing in various other bands at the time and feeling frustrated with the lack of musical adventure in the moribund waters of mainstream rock and pop. Each felt a need to break free from this stagnation and write and perform songs that could stir the imagination.
Having agreed to get together for a few jams (the prerequisite for membership - a need to break out of tired old rock clichés and experiment with songs and music) the three founder members eventually find likeminded souls in bass player Wilson Graham and keyboards man Chris Norby.
The initial rehearsals involved the band knocking out covers of classic prog-rock songs such as Time by Pink Floyd and Squonk by Genesis. But as was always the plan, soon original material begins to dominate proceedings.
Quite quickly the boys realise that they had enough material for an album and decide to set about recording the songs. The first eponymously titled album was well received by critcs and fans alike and the album paved the way for Dead Heroes Club first steps into the world of progressive rock.
The idea for the cover of the debut album came quite quickly after deciding upon the name of the band, with each member choosing some of their personal dead heroes from the past. Dead Heroes Club play a series of successful gigs around Ireland and the UK and continue to write for a second release.
Second album from Irish proggers Dead Heroes Club, A Time of Shadow is independently produced and released. Prog bands are something of a rarity in Ireland and to the best of the bands knowledge they are the only current exponent of the genre. The first thing that strikes you about this album is the wonderful artwork which was designed for the band by Ted Nasmith, the official illustrator for the Tolkein estate. Fantasy cover art and prog have always gone hand in hand and it is reassuring to find Dead Heroes Club upholding this tradition.
This is an album of quintessential prog; ever changing time signatures, swirling keyboards, lengthy solos, melodramatic vocals and lyrics that conjure up all kinds of imagery. Vocalist Liam Campbell has a gift for haunting and memorable melodies, just check out the opening to "Stranger In The Looking Glass", which provides arguably the albums soaraway highlight. Meanwhile guitarist Gerry McGerigal and the rhythm section of drummer Michael Gallagher and bassist Wilson Graham contribute some fluid instrumental passages. Consisting of four lengthier pieces and two songs at little more than four minutes ("The Centre Cannot Hold" and "The Sleepers Are Waking") it is the epics where the band really flex their collective muscles and stretch out whilst evoking moods of both light and shade. This is best exemplified by the jaunty keys on "A Gathering of Crows" which bounce along with an insistent melody whilst the lyric tackles the altogether darker theme of religious fanaticism. The grand finale of the fifteen minute title track is very much a sweeping epic that ebbs and flows yet is still held tightly together in regard to composition and arrangement.
Whilst there are still bands such as Dead Heroes Club around then the future generation of classic prog seems very much assured. In short, this is a triumph. --Sea of Tranquility
Everybody knows U2, but the next best (and big) thing out of Ireland could be the progressive rock band The Dead Heroes Club. Their second independently produced album, A Time Of Shadow, with cover by official Tolkein illustrator Ted Nasmith, is an well-crafted and elegant work of classic progressive rock. With a cursory listen it is abundantly clear where DHC finds its musical inspiration; the blood of Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Tull, Pink Floyd and others floods their veins. While the music is superbly composed, Dead Heroes Club is blessed with intelligent lyrics thanks to lead vocalist, lyricist and playwright Liam Campbell. As example, Campbell draws inspiration from fellow Irishman and poet W. B. Yeats for their song 'The Centre Cannot Hold.'
Within the musical composition, the emphasis seems three-fold: melody converging with Campbell's vocals, a healthy dose of keyboards especially reminiscent of old school Hammond organ, and a developed structure combining varied movements and tempos over an often atmospheric and mysterious foundation. Couple this with coherent lyrics and A Time Of Shadow becomes an profound (four of the six songs are over nine minutes long) and enjoyable accomplishment. Stranger in the Looking Glass and a Gathering of Crows are particularly magnificent and representative songs. An attention-deficit crippled generation raised on sound bites may have difficulty with the length of some pieces and may even, erroneously, find them derivative and repetitive. But, as always, this is the challenge of any progressive music when creativity and intelligence merge.
Finding Dead Heroes Club's A Time Of Shadow is a true delight. DHC combines impressive and creative progressive rock, steeped in the classic tradition, with brilliant lyrics to creative a distinct and enjoyable masterpiece. Highly recommended! --Dangerdog
True progressive rock with a Tolkien like cover but no concept album. Irish prog bands are rare but the Dead Heroes Club keep the flame alive. They consider themselves to be part of the 'song for song's sake' category, therefore this is no concept album but features six standalone pieces. A Time Of Shadows is their second album and their music has many influences from the old Genesis music, especially as the voice of Liam Campbell sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel. The name Dead Heroes Club suggest a tribute to deceased musicians but besides Genesis I hear a lot of old-Marillion and old-Pendragon whom are still very much alive.
The opener Theatre Of The Absurd immediately shows the direct connection to Genesis. The lyrics are very poetical and I could hear a link with the old Marillion and Fish albums but also some Pendragon, but that could be the masks in the booklet and the use of the word "Masquerade" in the lyrics. The different rhythms and melodies come and go on this song and the only thing I miss is a great lengthy guitar solo, the only solo on it is short and fuzzy. The second part of the song is more powerful however and there is more keyboard present.
Stranger In The Looking Glass begins in a Marillion style of a long time ago with a nice chorus that sounds familiar but still original, however, the guitar solo could be a bit more upfront. Just like the first song the second part is more up-tempo, sounding more like Pendragon and IQ. At the end of the song instead of a solo a catchy riff is followed by a solid rock riff. I really like long guitar solos but they are hard to find on this album. But that is all a matter of personal taste, for every one of me there is probably someone else cheering the absence of long solos.
A big transition to The Centre Cannot Hold which has a powerful rock riff. At the end of the song the pace slows down but the main part is hard rock. If the opener did not build a bridge to Genesis then A Gathering Of Crows surely will. The song has an up-tempo pace for a long time and has a thick layer of keyboards. The final part is slower and finally features a normal guitar solo, though it does not last very long. When Liam Campbell is singing on this song it is truly as if I hear Peter Gabriel. Sleepers Awaken is the second of the short songs, though it has all the potential of an epic song it is still within five minutes. When you think the song is transforming the sound slowly fades. The main event on this album is the title track A Time Of Shadows, again an epic combination between old Genesis and Marillion. This song has many changes all nicely put together. Strangely enough this song also does not have the lengthy solos you would expect. The song works up to a climax but for me it does not deliver the full deal completely. The final part of the song has a decent guitar solo but it is a long wait.
Dead Heroes Club has provided us with an album with many elements from the glorious prog past and many times I had the feeling of being back in the time I started to get interested in prog music. A Time Of Shadows is a good album and the people who will pick up this album will have a nice spin. Many of those people will also end up playing their old Genesis and Marillion albums. I have the same feeling with this album as with The Garden from Unitopia. The style of music is in a way comparable but above all it is also an album that makes me want to play other albums that do have that magical shine. Not wanting to end in a critical way I do think that many fans of old Genesis will surely have a good addition to their collection with this album. --Dutch Progressive Rock Pages
Top customer reviews
Sorry naysayers, there is without any doubt some fabulous quasi-symphonic material out there that will knock you down, stunned. Generally, the deal should really rely on a great vocalist to carry the relatively mundane symphonic backdrop and reach for higher musical glory. Well, Liam Campbell has a voice that simply transcends the monotone and vaults these Irish lads into a contending place among the above mentioned warriors. The vocals are intensely passionate, expressive yet husky, without any hysteria and overblow, recalling the prime quality of Marillion-era Fish and Manfred Mann's Earth Band vocalist Chris Hamlet Thompson.
Everything about this record shines, from the glorious cover art and the sleek production, to the impeccable musicianship and forceful delivery. Guitarist Gerry McGerigal has a unique timbre and provides glimmering riffs and massages them with slithering leads, the drumming is particularly solid without that mechanical binary weakness deployed by some of the weaker neo-groups, allied with a powerful bass and supple keys that finish off the instrumental side more than competently. The material is vivacious both in its succinct messaging and its audio intensity, but the vocals really take all this by the jugular and waltz the compositions into the prog twilight. The herculean "Theatre of the Absurd" is an astounding "entrée en matière", full of bluster and unmitigated confidence, bellicose riffs, reptilian bass and brawny drumming shoving the mood forward and providing the platform for some eyebrow-raising moments (such as the Manfred Mann -like synthesizer solo), some gentle passages that float and flutter as well as some rockier sections that recall Brit legends Spooky Tooth. Campbell wastes little time in showing off his animated vocal prowess, contrasting sweet and sour better than a Cantonese chef. The track's second half burst into a sizzling detonation that sets the swarthy tone right there and then, recalling the finer moments from the Earth Band.
Being Irish, you have the requisite Christian relevance (the "House of reverence" lyric) on "Stranger in the Looking Glass", a mid-tempo, volume-pedal guitar caress that blooms nicely into a stately bluesy lament proclaimed brilliantly by the thrilling Liam Campbell vocal and a sulfuric lead guitar excursion into the loftiest heavens. Not very technical one may say but goose-bump material of the finest vintage nevertheless. The genuine ingenuity of the lyrical content and its essential delivery is simply remarkable to even the most jaded ear. Little dabs of acoustic guitar, svelte backing whispers and deft drumming combine with power chords to provide a constant sense of movement and entertainment.
The raucous and concentrated "The Center Cannot Hold" introduces some snarl and nastiness, pummeling relentlessly a stark message of social despondence. McGerigal riffles his axe with merciless abandon so as to underline the rage, distinguishing slashes of doom to fade out from the storm.
"A Gathering of Crows" is a rather sarcastic stab at the hypocrisy of war and its socio-religious masters, accusing jihad and crusade alike, and asking "Where is the faith that brings us peace". With the new millennium, it's about time we see artists tackling subjects that crested rock in the first place: condemnation of a faulty human condition that claims illumination and yet showcases unending primitivism. A jaded, bored and unintelligent planet of web-surfers who are now anesthetized from the reality of their idiotic routine.
Where "waking up" is replaced by "logging on" without the responsibility or the guilt.
The lyrical content is astonishing, Liam is quite the spokesman and the lads infuse some lavish ditties like the fabulous piano insert but truth is we are reminded of Marillion's anti-war Script of a Jester's Tear message. The applause for the courage displayed is well-earned.
"The Sleepers Are Waking" is perhaps the most accessible track here, featuring another breathless vocal exhibition and a notably more acoustic presentation which recalls vintage the Strawbs, not exactly paltry company. A beautiful track that is a dedication to a deceased friend.
To finish "en beauté" as the French like to say, how about a 15 minute masterpiece title track, that encompasses everything previously stated, emotionally on par with IQ's devastating "Harvest of Souls"? Fueled by a deep sense of pace and atmosphere, this is cinematographic prog at its finest, Liam offering a multitude of voice resonances (plus some game-show host sample babblings), with bassist Wilson Graham booming along fiercely, brooding e-piano and jangling guitar arpeggios adding to the palette. The second half is even more desperate and anguished, the main theme achingly excruciating within dire lyrical content, this is no happy party music but rather intelligent and thought-provoking progressive rock music that has meaning and necessity.
This album pleased me immediately and to my astonishment, it gets even better with repeated auditions, sliding nicely into my recent favorite's list. Liam Campbell is a stellar voice and the bands kicks ass.
5 Irish Matrixes
A Time Of Shadow has well crafted songs and what will stand out is this band has an exceptional singer in Liam Campbell. He reminds me a bit of Peter Gabriel with a twist of Pete Townsend at times. Some Prog fans may be dismayed at the lack of "noodling" on the album. What I mean is the band seems to take a minimalist approach to drawn out keyboard or guitar solos. The instruments weave together into a nice melodic package carried by Liam's vocals. The band has what I'd call a "Classic" Prog sound. In fact, the opening and closing of track one is instantly reminiscent of Yes. Not to worry track one is the only place I noticed such a simularity. This is not an album I had to warm up to, I liked it on the first spin. Not only does DHC have a classic style to them, they have the sound of a top notch act.